This Monday — the day after the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin — the mosque in Joplin, MO was burned to the ground in what police are investigating as arson. Sadly, this was not a one-off:
Shortly after the Islamic Society of Joplin opened a mosque in 2007 in Joplin, a small town in Southwest Missouri, the sign in front was set on fire, an act determined to be arson. On the 4th of July of this year, someone who is undoubtedly a deeply patriotic person was filmed by a surveillance camera throwing a flaming object onto the roof of the mosque in an attempt to burn it down, causing some fire damage (see the video here); despite a $15,000 reward offered by the FBI for information leading to the arrest of those responsible and a clear shot of the attacker’s face, nobody has come forward to identify him.
This mosque is the only Islamic center within 50 miles of Joplin. This is, of course, a city which has undergone enormous struggles as a community on the whole. In fact, during last year’s tornados, the Joplin mosque served as a headquarters for Muslim relief workers who flew in from around the country to help Joplin residents get back on their feet.
This is a terrible event that someone or some people perpetrated, and doing so during the holy period of Ramadan is only salt in the wound.
However, hope springs. A Muslim high schooler from Joplin has spread the message of an Indiegogo campaign to raise the $250,000 needed to rebuild the mosque. And, hearteningly, as of now (less than 36 hours after starting the campaign) they have already raised more than $220,000.
I believe this is an important cause to support, both for obvious reasons and also for the more symbolic. On the former point, this community was wounded by a natural disaster of epic proportions just a year ago last May. In addition, the victims of this alleged crime have lost a rallying point and place of worship at the hands of what appears to be malevolent and cowardly actor.
Moreover, I believe this is important to support because doing so shows that we as a community support each other. Two of the most recent TV shows I’ve been hooked on are “Friday Night Lights” and “Jericho.” As a person from a big city, I find it funny that these shows about small towns in faraway states (whether or not they’re based on real places) resonate so much with me. Perhaps it’s because I believe in sense of community and it’s most prominently displayed in media with tropes around small towns and the events which bring them together. But in this case, we all need to be brought together for a group of Americans who have faced pain via devastating discrimination.
As Glenn Greenwald eloquently writes in Salon today:
All of this reveals a broader truth: Islamophobia in the United States is pervasive and intense, and worse, is as ignored and tolerated as it is destructive. The greatest harm from these incidents is not to the property they damage. It’s the climate of fear that is created for Muslims living in the United States. [I]t’s hard to put into words how palpable and paralyzing this fear is in American Muslim communities. It’s infuriating to behold: perfectly law-abiding citizens and legal residents feeling — rationally and accurately — that they are subjected to constant surveillance, monitoring, suspicion, denial of basic rights, hostility and worse solely because of their religion and ethnicity.
Please consider supporting this cause yourself.